Crawley Town FC was formed in 1896 and played their formative years in the West Sussex and Mid Sussex Leagues at a variety of grounds in and around the town.
They remained in junior football until they entered the Sussex County League in 1951. The club then switched to the Metropolitan League in 1956 and won the Metropolitan League Cup in 1959.
Crawley adopted professional status in 1962 and joined the Southern League the following year. For the next 20 years Crawley played in the First Division in its various guises, apart from a brief taste of Premier Division football in 1969-70. In 1983-84, under manager John Maggs, Crawley returned to the Premier Division where they remained until 2004. The club enjoyed various cup successes over the years including winning the Sussex Senior Cup in 1990 and 1991.
In 1991-92 Crawley enjoyed what was at the time their best ever run in the FA Cup and reached the third round where they enjoyed a money-spinning local derby with neighbours Brighton and Hove Albion at the Goldstone Ground in front of 18,301 fans, losing 5-0. Earlier, they had knocked out Third Division Northampton Town 4-2 at Town Mead in the first round.
In May 1997 the last match was played at Town Mead, the club’s home since 1949. After 48 seasons the ground was sold for redevelopment and the club moved to the magnificent Checkatrade Stadium. The first match there was a friendly against Port Vale on July 24 1997.
In 1999 new owner John Duly’s arrival ushered in a period of success on the pitch under manager Francis Vines, who was appointed in January 2003. Reds won the League Cup and Sussex Senior Cup and the following year wrapped up the Southern League title in convincing style, ending 12 points clear and adding the League Cup and Championship Match trophy for good measure.
In 2005 the club was under new ownership as the SA Group took control and made the decision to go full-time. But poor results at the start of the season, culminating in an FA Cup exit to Ryman League Braintree Town, saw Vines replaced by former Chelsea and Swansea manager John Hollins in November 2005. Hollins set about pulling the club out of relegation trouble but with crowds dwindling due to inconsistent results financial problems beset the club and in March 2006 that the players and management staff were only being paid 50% of their salary. They eventually finished 17th but at the end of the season were deducted three points for breaching the annual playing budget.
The news the fans feared – that the club was to enter administration for a second time in seven years - came in June 2006. The club was just over an hour from extinction when a third offer to creditors was accepted by the administrators.
Starting the season on minus ten points, the customary penalty for entering administration, Hollins and his newly assembled squad all but wiped out the deduction inside the first week of the seasonbut form dipped and Hollins paid the price after another FA Cup exit to lower-league opposition. Coach John Yems and players Ben Judge and David Woozley were appointed joint caretaker managers, securing Conference survival on the last day of the season.
In May 2007 Steve Evans arrived as manager with Paul Raynor as his assistant. In April 2008, a new era dawned for the club when Prospect Estates Holdings Limited took control in conjunction with former owner John Duly. With former director Bruce Winfield and local businesswoman Susan Carter now key shareholders alongside Prospect Estates the club went from strength to strength. In October 2009 Mr Winfield announced that Crawley Town would finish the season debt-free 18 months after the new owners had inherited liabilities of more than £500,000.
In July 2010 Winfield announced that he and Carter had become majority shareholders and had attracted new investment into the club from the Far East. This enabled Evans to start rebuilding a squad which had finished a superb seventh in 2009-10, the best position in the club’s history. In the next six months a total of 23 new players arrived and the investment paid off spectacularly with Reds enjoying the best FA Cup run in their history, reaching the fifth round where they earned worldwide recognition for a brilliant performance at Old Trafford where they lost 1-0 to Manchester United in front of a crowd of 74,778.
In March 2011, Bruce Winfield lost his brave battle with cancer three days after watching the team take another big step towards the title with victory over rivals AFC Wimbledon. History was made on April 9 2011 when Reds won promotion to the Football League after beating Tamworth 3-0 to stretch their unbeaten league record to 26 games. They finished the season with a record Conference points total (105) and also set a new record for the longest unbeaten run, having extended it to 30 matches by the end of the campaign.
Reds quickly set the pace at the top of League Two and then embarked on another FA Cup run, beating Championship sides Bristol City and Hull City to earn a crack at Stoke City in the fifth round when Premier League opposition visited Crawley for the first time in a competitive game.
Reds lost 2-0 and by then had sold Matt Tubbs and Tyrone Barnett for record fees. After nearly five years in charge, Evans resigned in April 2012 to take up the manager’s role at Rotherham. Former England international Steve Coppell arrived at the club as Director of Football and with Caretaker Manager Craig Brewster guided Reds to a second successive promotion after a 1-0 win at Accrington Stanley secured League One football in third place.
In May 2012 Sean O’Driscoll was appointed Evans’ successor but within two months had accepted the manager’s job at Nottingham Forest. Richie Barker was appointed as his replacement in August 2012 and guided Crawley to a creditable 10th-place finish but after a run of seven League games without a win, with just one goal scored, he left the club by mutual consent in November 2013. The experienced John Gregory was appointed as his replacement and guided Reds to 15th place despite a punishing end to the season when they had to play 21 games in ten weeks.
In December 2014, John stepped down from his duties to undergo a heart operation and former Wales international Dean Saunders was appointed Interim Manager until the end of the season. Saunders was unable to prevent Reds from dropping back into League Two after three seasons at that level and left the club in May 2015.
He was replaced by the former Cheltenham boss Mark Yates and Reds finished 20th in their first season back in League Two. In March 2016 Turkish businessman Ziya Eren became the club’s new owner and replaced Yates with the highly-respected and experienced former Chelsea, Arsenal youth and reserve-team coach Dermot Drummy in May 2016.
Drummy brought in a total of 22 new players during the summer of 2016 and the club was able to invest in its infrastructure thanks to Mr Eren's generosity. But after a poor second half of the season, which ended with Reds 19th in the table, Drummy left the club and on May 23 former Leeds and Liverpool winger Harry Kewell was appointed Head Coach with ex-Northern Ireland international Warren Feeney as his assistant.
Under Kewell Reds finished 14th in 2017-18, their highest position since relegation, but Kewell and Feeney left in August 2018 to join Notts County.
He was replaced on September 7, 2018, by the Italian coach Gabriele Cioffi, a former defender with extensive coaching experience abroad. He was also part of the management team at Birmingham City during the 2016-17 campaign. Gabriele signed a three-year contract and a few days later named the former Blackburn and Fleetwood youth coach Nathan Rooney as his assistant. Reds finished the season in 19th place and sealed a ninth season as a Football League club.
Off the pitch the club entered into a two-year agreement with Brighton & Hove Albion to stage FA Women's Super League and under-23 fixtures at The People's Pension Stadium, the new name for our home after the club agreed a naming rights deal with the Crawley-based company in December 2018.
Crawley kicked off the new year brightly with two consecutive wins to nil at The People’s Pension Stadium against Colchester United and Cheltenham Town.
Cioffi’s side finished in 19th position after vital away wins against Yeovil and Exeter in mid-April secured our football league safety for a tenth year. On the final day we defeated already promoted Tranmere Rovers in West Sussex 3-1 in a marvellous display to put a positive on a tough season in all competitions.
After a tricky pre-season in terms of results, Cioffi’s Crawley started the 2019/20 season with a bang, sitting within the play-off places by the end of September, with only two defeats in ten league games and a marvellous EFL Cup run.
The Reds defeated first-round opponents Walsall in mid-August 2-3, with goals from Ashley Nadesan, Filipe Morais and Tom Dallison in a dramatic evening game in the West Midlands that put us into the second-round hat where we would be drawn at home to Premier League Norwich City.
Norwich made changes for the game but still named players like Ralf Fahrmann, Ben Godfrey and Emiliano Buendia in the side who failed to shine at a packed-out stadium.
Crawley were huge underdogs for the clash, but looked up for the battle from the first whistle as Ollie Palmer looked to give England man Ben Godfrey a scare early on. Norwich controlled possession but it was the Reds who struck first as Bez Lubala’s 17th minute effort deflected past ex-Germany international Fahrmann and into the net.
The Red Devils were defending like heroes and were able to deny danger from some of England’s most exciting players. Emi Buendia struck the woodwork twice but it was red glory in West Sussex as Crawley progressed with a clean sheet.
Stoke City of the Championship came next and again proved to be a massive test for League Two Crawley. The Potters took a first-half lead through Sam Vokes but the Reds levelled the game up as Nathan Ferguson found the net. Crawley were the dominant force in the tie that ended in penalties as Sam Vokes’ missed spot-kick was the difference to send Crawley through to round four, where they lost out to Colchester United.
After achieving only six points from a possible thirty before December of 2019, Manager Gabrielle Cioffi was replaced with current Manager John Yems, who took charge of a successful final four months of a prematurely curtailed 2019/20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yems’ Crawley were unbeaten in nine in the second-half of the season and only lost three times in eighteen fixtures under the new Manager.
After a six-month layoff during the pandemic, the 2020/21 season began behind closed doors as government rules meant that supporters had to stay at home. Despite being knocked out of the Carabao Cup in the first round against Championship Millwall, Crawley embarked on yet another memorable cup run, this time in the Emirates FA Cup.
Crawley played one of their most memorable games in an 125-year history in the first-round, defeating Torquay United 5-6 after extra-time, coming back from two two-goal deficits as Tom Nichols starred, scoring three and assisting two.
The Reds then defeated League One Wimbledon away from home at the new Plough Lane which set up an attractive third-round tie at home against Leeds United.
The Leeds clash will go down as our most famous result within our history, and despite COVID-19 rules not allowing the attendance of fans, the game was covered live on BBC One for the nation to watch.
Leeds fielded a team including England star Kalvin Phillips, Spain international Rodrigo Moreno and Ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, and Brazil star Raphinha was introduced off of the bench.
Against all odds and pre-match predictions, Crawley destroyed Premier League Leeds United 3-0, with goals from Nick Tsaroulla, Ashley Nadesan and Jordan Tunnicilffe. A classic fixture under John Yems that will be remembered forever. Crawley exited in the fourth round after a 2-1 away defeat to AFC Bournemouth, during a time where a number of Crawley players were ruled out with COVID-19, meaning it was difficult to field a side for the game that was lost so narrowly in a valiant attempt against Championship opposition.
The club sold striker Max Watters for a record undisclosed fee in January 2021 to Cardiff City. Crawley finished the 2020/21 season in 12th place, a record high since their relegation from League One in 2015.